Qatar 787 grounded for same problem as United Dreamliner

Qatar Airways Ltd. said a 787 jet just handed over by Boeing Co. developed a problem similar to one that forced a United Airlines aircraft to make an emergency landing with a faulty generator.

Qatar Air’s third 787 exhibited the failure on its delivery flight from the U.S., Akbar Al Baker, the Gulf carrier’s chief executive officer, said Thursday at London’s Heathrow airport. The plane has been grounded since Dec. 9 and may remain so for at least four days while Boeing sends spares and a recovery team.

“These problems are unacceptable because this aircraft has been flying for the last 14 months,” Al Baker said in an interview. “They have to get their act together very fast because we at Qatar Airways will not accept any more defects.”

A United 787 was forced to land on Dec. 4 following the failure of one of six generators. The composite-plastic model saves on fuel by not diverting air from the engines for power, instead using five times as much electricity as older jets.

“Two aircraft having the same problem — the same major problem — so quickly is a cause of concern,” Al Baker said, adding that Doha-based Qatar Air will ask Boeing to cover its losses. “Definitely we will demand compensation. We are not buying airplanes from them to put in a museum.”

Calls to spokespeople for Chicago-based Boeing in London weren’t immediately returned.

Besides problems with the generator, Boeing’s 787 has experienced issues with its General Electric GEnx engines as well. Qatar previously refused to take delivery of its 787s until the engine problem was solved. The Federal Aviation Administration has instructed airlines that operate 787s powered by GE engines to inspect those engines frequently. The FAA also recently called for inspections of 787 fuel lines after parts were found to have been improperly installed.

No Excuse

Al Baker said the generator glitch is particularly galling given that the 787’s commercial debut was delayed for more than 3 1/2 years because of issues with new materials and production techniques, and because the model has been flying for so long.

“I don’t think there is any excuse,” said the executive, who was at London Heathrow following Qatar Air’s first flight there with another of its 787s. “There will be teething problems, yes, minor teething problems.”

Qatar Airways, the second biggest Gulf carrier, is due to get two more 787s on Dec. 19, taking the fleet to five, Al Baker said. That will increase to 10 by the end of 2013, compared with an original plan for 30 before the program delays, he said.

“Hopefully, with the ramp up of production at Boeing we will receive some more, but for that I will keep my fingers crossed,” the CEO said. “We have told Boeing that this kind of problem is unacceptable to us because we are already falling behind our expansion program.”

The performance of the aircraft delivered has been “quite adequate,” Al Baker said, and Qatar Air has seen no evidence of a separate fuel-leak problem that led the FAA to order more regular inspections.

“Boeing makes fine airplanes,” he said. “We hope we will always work with them as long as they satisfy our requirements.”

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